Mudslide blocks River Road

Road may not reopen today

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Routt County Road 14 was blocked off Friday after a mudslide came down a hillside directly below the Tree Haus neighborhood.

— A mudslide forced the closure of Routt County Road 14, or River Road, from the Brooklyn neighborhood in Steamboat Springs to Mount Werner Road, after a mudslide reported at about 9:45 p.m. Thursday. There was no detour or route for traffic to move through the slide area Friday, and county officials were unsure when the road might reopen.

At 5 p.m. Friday, Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper said he hoped to have the road reopened by nightfall.

Thursday night, a large amount of earth - carrying entire trees and large boulders with it - slid about 75 feet down a hillside directly below the Tree Haus neighborhood just outside city limits. The slide is approximately three-tenths of a mile north of the intersection of River and Mount Werner roads. Draper said no homes are in danger.

Draper said the hillside is historically unstable, and that Thursday's slide was caused by heavy rainfall in recent days that compromised a slip plane beneath the surface of the hillside. He said new construction in the Tree Haus neighborhood was not a contributing factor to the slide.

An excavation crew worked Friday morning to clear a ditch on the side of the road blocked by the slide. Draper said clearing the ditch was the top priority because a large amount of water is building up on the north side of the slide. Draper said that water could reduce the stability of the road if seepage is not prevented.

"We have to have drainage," Draper said.

A hike up the face of the slide Friday morning revealed sizable crevices between large chunks of dislodged earth. Entire cottonwood trees sat in the road, displaced from previous locations high on the hillside. The slip plane was clearly visible and continued to ooze steady streams of groundwater.

Standing about halfway up the slide, Draper pointed to large amounts of standing and trickling water.

"Therein lies the problem," he said.

The county may not have to worry about additional precipitation in coming days. Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said there is no significant chance of rain in the Steamboat area until Sunday.

The mudslide's remains are being trucked to the Road and Bridge Department's shop, where rocks will be sifted out of the dirt. Draper said the rocks would be used to stabilize shoulders of county roadways. Four county trucks are hauling the dirt. One truck and driver have been donated by the city of Steamboat Springs.

"We figure anything (Draper) needs, he can have," said Doug Marsh, the city's street/fleet superintendent.

Clearing the road was a difficult task Friday because as earth was cleared, more came sliding down the hillside. Draper said he expected that process to continue until the entire slide is cleared.

For more information, call the Routt County Road and Bridge Department at 879-0831.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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